I recently took a trip to San Francisco, a city I really enjoy. It was only the second time I'd ever been, so I traced almost the same route as I did the first time I set foot in the chic, eco-friendly city, with only one exception.
To start from the beginning, the first time I visited the city, I saw it solo. Plotting out each destination on the Cal train from San Jose, I was ready. First stop? Pier 39 to see the sea lions and grab some soup, piping hot and served in a sour dough bread bowl. Then it was on to Fisherman's Wharf, Ghirardelli Square and the Buena Vista (Which, unbeknownst to me is the birthplace of Irish Coffee. I wanted to visit because it was the opening scene to one of my favorite movies, When a Man Loves A Woman). Then, onto Lombard Street "the crookedest street" and a ride on the trolley cars into Chinatown. Camera snapping and feet pounding, I saw the majority of San Francisco in a few hours. And the second time was almost the same, but this time I had my mom in tow and determination to track down Blue Bottle Coffee.
The name kept popping up; Bon Appetit, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Eater... the final decision-making straw was the airline branded magazine found in the seat pocket on my flight to California. That was it. We were in search of Blue Bottle Coffee.
Little did I know, the company was celebrating its 10th year in business, opening it's doors in 2002. What makes this different from, say, a Starbucks is that there are no drink sizes. Strictly a one size fits all approach. Want a double espresso? You'll have to order two. No fancy drinks, no extra, triple, skim anything. The concept is European; slow coffee. The mantra of its owner: "I will only sell coffee less than 48 hours out of the roster to my customers, so that they may enjoy their coffee at its peak of flavor. I will only use the finest organic, pesticide-free and shade grown beans." The menu consists of the following: Cafe Latte, Cappuccino, Espresso, Macchiato, Cafe Mocha, Hot Chocolate, Cafe au Lait and Drip coffee. No flavors, no artificial sugar waiting at the end of the bar and no fuss. Simple, deliciously brewed coffee.
Previously, the only outpost on the East Coast was it's Brooklyn shop but as of 2012, the company opened a store in Rockefeller Center, underground, on the concourse level and another one in Chelsea. Aside from standalone stores, the coffee is served at Gramercy Tavern in New York City and Alice Waters names it amongst her favorite places.
No bitterness and the sweet organic milk used in my Cappuccino meant I needed less raw sugar to achieve the sweetness I desired. Ten years later, the concept of coffee that was meant to be enjoyed, not gulped, came through in the taste and flavor when I found myself not wanting the liquid deliciousness to run out. As I stood in line for my final coffee before leaving later that evening, I considered purchasing a bag of roasted beans to bring back to the East Coast. Putting them back on the shelf, I didn't buy the beans. Some things in life are little treasures, and this was one that I looked forward to enjoying the next time business or personal travel brought me back to the city on the Bay.